Five minutes at CPhI worldwide with …
CO/PH: What is your core business and technological highlights?
Gerson Valença Pinto: We have been in business for sixty years. The main company asset is to bring the best of science and nature to produce globally relevant innovation focused on Brazilian biodiversity but not limited to it. Our pharmaceutical business is focused on two main categories: API’and natural extracts for pharmaceutical applications. These areas are very interconnected. For instance, we produce pilocarpine, which is an API, but that actually comes from the jaborandi (Pilocarpus pennatifolius) leaves.
CO/PH: What practical examples of innovation can you make?
Cristina Ropke: Three years ago we started a partnership with the National Laboratory of Biosciences to build up a drug discovery platform based on a Brazilian Biodiversity library. The platform was designed as an open innovation model, partnering with other pharmaceutical companies. It is an extremely novel, hi-tech approach. There is a re-emergence of natural compounds as a source of new APIs. Recently, natural products have re-emerged as one of the solutions to fill the innovation gap in early drug discovery, which has proven challenging for previous organizational models. Looking ahead, recent technological advances could be sufficient to revitalize the value of natural products as starting points for drug discovery, particularly with the recent growing interest in phenotypic screening.
GVP: Centroflora is all about bringing this innovation to the market, and in order to do that, we want to cover the space from discovery to the delivery ingredients to our clients.
CO/PH: How do you exploit the Brazilian biodiversity to look for active compounds?
CR: Within our parternship with the National Laboratory of Bioscience, we only work with validated clinical targets and we have an idea of what kind of molecules could have a good chance to hit them. We then have the know-how necessary to collect plants -a lot of them- targeting families and species where it is likely to find active molecules. This builds a
smart library of plants and compounds. Smart because we use computer molecular networking and we can identify similar chemical skeletons in different plants. We become better and better at finding what kind of molecules can be an hit, using both in vitro and in silico methods. We do crystallography of the compounds ourselves as well, we have an X-ray source in house.
GVP: We are also very open to external innovation. If someone in academia finds that a plant extract is active against some target, we are more than happy to collaborate and include this knowledge in our libraries. We are keen to listen and partner with everybody with academia and other companies that have good ideas.
CO/PH: Since your primary material is the biodiversity of the Brazilian flora, how do you keep sustainable? And what about your relationship with the native populations?
CR: Centroflora`s Programm Partnership for a better World, generates value among our supply chain, employing benefit sharing politics with local communities and small farmers. We train them and take care of the whole supply chain. Centrolfora also received several awards because of the positive environmental impacts of this Programm.
GVP: We take traceability very seriously, so that we know where our incoming materials come from. We also work with the communities in order to include the people who live in the forest in our business model to give something back, to leave a legacy, to promote economical, social and environmental development to all. These people know, value and protect the forest.
CO/PH: Is working with natural compounds challenging from an IP perspective?
CR: We cannot patent the product itself, of course, as it is “created by God”. But the companies we work with, when we identify a new compound, are the first to see this new chemical skeleton. So they are in pole position to look at it and create derivatives that can be patented. We provide the basis on which IP and innovation builds on.
CO/PH: What future do you see for Centroflora?
GVP: We believe we are still scratching the surface of the Brazilian biodiversity opportunity, which is immense and largely unexplored, mainly because of legislation and regulatory challenges in the past. This scenario is changing and a better regulatory framework is now in place. We believe that new technologies promoting health and well being will be accelerated in the years to come.
Peter Andersen: It is about getting the best of nature and the best of science, and making them work together.